South East Wales

Campaign to cut £21.6m of wasted medicines across Wales

Drug pills and capsules
Image caption The campaign will encourage patients to review their medicines with medical staff

A campaign to cut the multimillion-pound bill for wasted medicines in Wales has been launched.

Last year more than £21.6m worth of prescribed items were estimated to have been binned.

One patient returned a trolley full of unused medicines to a supermarket pharmacy, say Wales NHS doctors.

The money wasted last year could have paid for 851 nurses or 21,680 Alzheimer's drug treatment course, according to officials.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is uniting with others across Wales to ask the public to:

  • Only order the medicines they need
  • Return unwanted medicines to their pharmacy for safe disposal
  • Take their medicines with them when they go to hospital

Board director Graham Shortland said the key message was for patients, pharmacies and medical staff to communicate with each other to cut out the waste.

"Last year the health board dispensed more than nine million items but we estimate that around £2.8m of that was wasted for a variety of reasons," he said.

"That money could provide 110 extra nurses or 2,914 more cataract operations.

"Previous efforts have been made to tackle this problem but this campaign represents a step change in our approach and we are asking patients, pharmacies and other medical staff to play their part.

Mr Shortland said one of the problems was that returned medicines, even if they have not been opened, cannot be dispensed again.

"On the face of it, it would seem more useful if the medicines could be once again recycled," he said.

He said the latest campaign, launched in Cardiff on Monday, would encourage patients, who are sometimes intimidated about talking to their doctors, to discuss more what is being prescribed for them

Patients will be encouraged to have regular reviews of their medicines and to discuss any issues that they have with their GP or their pharmacist.

Anyone with unwanted medicines can return them to their local pharmacy where they will be disposed of safely.

Posters and leaflets will be displayed in pharmacies and GP practices to raise awareness of medicine waste among both patients and carers. A bus advertising campaign will also be used.

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